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MARISA FERNANDO '94 USES EDUCATION, CONTRIBUTIONS TO HELP HOME COUNTRY

August 2, 2010 - After studying sociology and environmental studies at Aquinas, Fernando went on to complete a year-long program in Zimbabwe on NGO (non-governmental organization) management in developing countries. She then earned an MA in Economics and Rural Development from the University of Manchester’s Institute for Development Policy Management, and in Sri Lanka earned a post-graduate diploma in conflict resolution from the United Kingdom’s University of Bradford.

As Fernando spent her first years back working on development and poverty issues, the daily realities of the civil war led her to witness a continuing pattern of violence and a cruel cycle of war and poverty. This realization prompted a change in the focus of her work, and she has spent the last few years working towards peace-building with FLICT (Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation). Managed by the German Technical Cooperation, FLICT operates through bilateral cooperation between Sri Lanka and Germany, and works to further democracy and the appreciation of diversity in Sri Lanka.

In addition to her work with FLICT, Fernando established an “AQ fund,” supported by people from Aquinas as well as her family members, which benefits projects aiding Sri Lankans. Interest is extracted from the fund at six-month intervals for the various aid projects. The main project of the fund is supporting young women’s vocation training at the Nazareth Convent. The convent provides a home for girls from all over the country who are unable to continue their education, and features a training program for older teenage girls that enables them to develop important job skills and avoid a life of menial labor and poverty. This year, the fund helped finance the construction of a rainwater-harvesting tank which helps irrigate the extensive garden that provides food for the girls residing at the convent. Fernando is also considering using a portion of the fund to benefit a haven run by the Sisters of Charity for the elderly who fled their homes during the civil war. People interested in contributing to the fund can contact her at marisaf@sltnet.lk.